We eat everything, and nothing edible gets wasted in our house. The fat from the roast chicken gets used for stir-frying veggies (which is why I refrain from using the word “healthy” to describe my cooking, probably because to the untrained eye it may not be!) and the stalks from the spinach goes into my green juice every morning (I am the family’s compost heap). I respect the Chinese attitude to food, especially meat; if you are going to butcher an animal, use every bit of it. I still haven’t gotten around to eating chicken feet, but totally get the rationale behind eating it.
When I buy ingredients specifically for a recipe, I try to find ways to use any leftovers and will share those in the blog as I go along.
Here’s a list of some of the obvious ones, derived from the recipes posted so far.
Whatever you do, don’t throw away overripe bananas. In my world, that constitutes a crime. Overripe bananas have so much natural sweetness, it’s a shame to waste. The easiest thing to do is to refrigerate (will keep for a few days) or freeze them in a zip-lock bag. Defrost and use to make banana bread (click here for recipe). Alternatively, peel the bananas and cut them into small chunks. Open freeze on a tray in the freezer, and once frozen, transfer to a zip lock bag. Perfect for smoothies.
Chicken or pork skin crackling
Place the skin in a small pan and cover with some water. Add salt, and cook on low heat for about 15-20 minutes. The fat will render from the skin, and the skin will shrink and become golden. Turn off heat & cool. Strain fat and store in the freezer. Use this fat to roast vegetables, or as a fat for stir fries, the flavour is incredible. Drain the skin/ crackling on kitchen towel. Cool and store in an airtight container and enjoy as a crunchy crispy snack.
I have a slow juicer and literally, everything from pineapple cores, spent lemon halves, stalks of parsley or other herbs, outer leaves of cabbage, apple centres, etc. goes into the morning juice. There’s still nutrition in these, and it’s good to put these leftovers to use.
Good quality bread gone stale makes excellent croutons. Roughly cube the bread and toss with olive and salt and pepper. Bake in a hot oven 200C or 180C fan for 10-15 minutes until crunchy and deep golden. Other nice additions include grated parmesan or some garlic powder (powder is better here as fresh garlic tends to burn).
When using vanilla seeds for desserts or ice creams, don’t throw away vanilla pods, (i.e the outside beans). Let them air dry naturally in a dry corner of the kitchen, and then store them in a jar of white sugar. After you have accumulated a few pods, make vanilla sugar by grinding the sugar together with the dried vanilla pods. Sieve (to remove any large pieces of vanilla) and store and use for baking or ice creams.
In the rare circumstance, we have some wine left over, I freeze it to use later in slow cooked or braised dishes, or to deglaze a pan for making a pan sauce. It’s easiest to freeze it in an ice-cube tray, and once frozen, transfer to a zip lock bag. Take out what you need in a bowl, and defrost on the counter before cooking with it.
A block of parmesan cheese always has the rind at one end, which is inedible. Use the rind in a hearty pureed vegetable soup, something I learnt from a soup cookbook. Best with sweet potato or pumpkin where the flavour of parmesan complements the soup. Add the rind together with the water/stock and let it simmer along with the rest of the soup. Once done, take out the rind and discard before pureeing the soup. It adds a lovely “umami” flavour to the soup.
We all end up buying a pack of herbs and then using only a part of it. To extend their life, herbs with fresh stalks like mint, parsley, coriander, etc. are best kept in a glass of water ( to avoid leaves sitting in water, ensure the water level is low). Cover the glass with a plastic bag and keep in the fridge, unless you live in high humidity areas (i.e. Singapore), where you don’t need to cover the glass. Change the water regularly. Herbs can last for more than 1 week like this. For more delicate herbs like thyme, chives, and basil (can be iffy too) this treatment won’t work. One simple way to use these is to put them in a mini food processor with a little garlic, lemon juice and olive oil and make into a chunky puree and you have salsa verde to serve with vegetables, meat or fish.
Save all unused bones in a zip-lock bag in the freezer for making stock. Chicken bones, leftover carcasses from roast chicken, beef bones and pork bones are particularly good. Even cooked bones from say a rib roast or pork shoulder are good to keep if you have space for them. Chop up the large bones and follow the recipe for homemade stock.